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Eurydice in Antigone: Character Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Do you think a character can make an impact by being onstage for a matter of minutes? In the play ''Antigone'', we see a character change a man's life in less than ten lines. In this lesson we will analyze the character Eurydice and her role in the play.

Traditional Greek Roles

In ancient Greece, it was a woman's job to run the household and take care of her children. Unless a woman was from Sparta, her role typically ended there. A woman held no power within the polis and was essentially owned by her father or husband. The character Eurydice from the play Antigone fits this role. While she is not an integral part of the conflict, she fits the paradigm of a woman in Greece. Her only source of power stems from the fact that her husband Creon has just been named King, making her the newly appointed Queen of Thebes. Although her character may not seem influential, her actions prove powerful when it comes to her husband's stubborn pride and power hungry mindset.

Women of Ancient Greece
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Let's take a look at Eurydice's brief time on stage and analyze the implications of her actions in connection to the play as a whole.

Terrible News

We don't meet Eurydice until the Exodus or ending scene of the play. She enters the stage after overhearing about the deaths of her son, Haemon, and niece, Antigone. She demands to know the truth, and a messenger confirms her suspicions. The messenger explains how Creon tried to right his wrong of leaving Polyneices' body in the street to rot. After his change of heart, he buried the body and headed to the cave to release Antigone. He finds Haemon there, lamenting over Antigone's limp body, as she hanged herself moments before. The messenger explains that Creon attempted to apologize, but Haemon spat in his face and started to fight. Creon avoided Haemon's sword, but Haemon decided in that moment to end his own life instead.

After hearing this horror story, Eurydice exits the stage, never to be seen or heard from again. When Creon returns, the messenger checks on Eurydice and finds that she has taken her own life, overhearing the last words she will ever speak.

Character Traits and Analysis

Weak

Upon first read, it might be tempting to call Eurydice weak. She faints at the original news of her son's death, and when she confirms this truth, immediately takes her life. One might consider her actions weak and that due to intense emotional stress, her only option is to bow out of the play.

Compassionate

While her fainting may seem weak, the reason behind her actions proves her love and compassion for her children. It's clear Eurydice was never able to get over her eldest son Megareus' death, and now the thought of losing more loved ones is too much for her heart to handle.

Vengeful

Eurydice's role may seem insignificant, but her character's fate is a reminder of Creon's rash behavior and Antigone's hubris, or pride. Both Creon and Antigone stop at nothing to fulfill their beliefs, one ordering punishment and the other honoring her brother at all costs. Eurydice serves as a reminder to Creon that his actions were the catalyst for his niece's, his son's and her own unnecessary deaths. In the moment of her suicide, the messenger hears Eurydice cry out for their eldest son that was killed in the battle with Polyneices and Eteocles, blaming Creon for his death.

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